Hasna El Maroudi, 26, Dutch pro-Palestinian activist/journalist of Moroccan descent, had planned to join other activists aboard a Dutch ship to Gaza. She changed her mind after having to deal with the sponsoring organization’s lack of transparency, and the direct involvement of Hamas. She wrote about the process in joop.nl and I was recently sent a translation of her article which was originally written in Dutch.
Parting with the Gaza Flotilla
Joop, opinion section, June 29
Why I am not sailing aboard the Dutch ship after all
By Hasna El Maroudi
I have been to the Greek island of Corfu over the past few days. I got to know the activists and journalists intending to sail to Gaza and received training on non-violent resistance from Anne de Jong, a passenger in the previous flotilla.
Although I had intended to report on the sail for Uitgesproken Vara and Joop, I was going first and foremost as an activist. I want Israel to lift the illegal blockade on Gaza and give the people that which they are entitled to have: Self-rule.
And that is also the issue for me: The population there. The Palestinian youths who published a document last year in which they expressed their longing for leading a normal life. I didn’t go for any political movement or for those in power.
When I decided to subject myself to the sail and the long list of preparatory engagements and training sessions it entailed, I presented the organizers with one single crucial demand: I wanted to know exactly who would sail with me on the Italian-Dutch ship and requested to have the opportunity to meet them all in advance before embarking on the trip.
I did not want to be surprised by the presence of figures or organizations with which I did not want to become involved. I was told that my demand was self-evident: There would be team-building and “we are going to have it in Greece.”
Despite assurances to the contrary, the Italian activists who were supposed to sail with us were nowhere to be seen upon our arrival in Corfu. More crucially, the Dutch delegation was isolated on the island. The rest of the flotilla was in Athens.
I repeatedly I asked to receive a tentative list of all the passengers. Realizing that many difficulties had been put in the organizers’ path, I did not expect to receive a complete list of participants. I would have been satisfied with the available information. None such information was given. Despite my insistence on receiving the list in advance, it was given to me when I decided to return to Holland. Too late.
But there was more going on. The ship’s funding remained unclear. Also regarding this point I repeatedly asked for information but as answers I was told of a loose web of associations under different umbrella and daughter organizations. The Nederland Gaza Association [the organizers of the Dutch boat ride] claims to be fully transparent. To me, this means publication of subsidies.
If this complicates fundraising and scares off donors, so be it. It’s the only way to show an already-suspicious Netherlands that you have nothing to hide.
The presence of Amin Abou Rashed suggests there is something to hide. He, too, sailed last year to Gaza with the flotilla, and he was arrested by Israel. According to various media, he is Hamas’ top figure in the Netherlands. He is also affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. How much of this is true, I do not know. How much of this is not true, I know even less. That is the problem, and it creates an atmosphere of suspicion.
Over dinner Anne de Jong insisted that it was all lies and that Amin is a terribly nice man with an unbelievable amount of love for the Palestinians. However much I wished I could believe her and those blue eyes of hers, I could not do it. Simply because his involvement with the flotilla was kept secret until the arrival to Greece. And not only vis-à-vis the rest of the world, but also when it came to the flotilla participants. I find this to be detrimental.
On this dangerous action, the participants are laying their lives on the line. It is therefore only fair that they be provided with the relevant essential information.
Amin was there the day the Dutch delegation received a non-violence training but hung in the background. Wilfred van de Poll, a journalist for Trouw, spoke briefly with Amin about his presence and role within the organization. “The brain behind the flotilla” as the man elected to be described, arranged the purchase of the boat. He also provided for the lion’s share of funding, according to Anne de Jong. If he played such a vital role, then why was it kept secret and why couldn’t I know who or what he was?
Our activists were told that the goods [aboard the ship] will be distributed by UNHCR, but it later turned out that this was not 100 percent sure. Few organizations beside UNCHR are capable of performing this task in Gaza. In fact, only one other such entity remains. Hamas. And I wanted to have nothing do with them.
The bottom line is very simple. In a mission such as this one, the activists must be able to fully trust one another, like firefighters entering a burning building. My trust in the organization only diminished the further we progressed.
The moment I expressed reservations about the information which was given out, Anne de Jong’s reacted accusatory and snappy. “Would you rather we told you nothing at all?” she demanded, as though I should applaud her right away for getting to hear anything at all. And as though I had failed to understand the magnitude of the task of setting out against a great power such as Israel.
It is regretful that the organization (according to my opinion) missed its mark. The boat is about to set sail, carrying many good intentions, too little experience and too many illusions. I wish everyone would come back in one piece. Over a period of one week I became truly attached to the Dutch group and I am convinced of their honest motivations in sailing.
I hope they remain extra critical. The goal of freeing Gaza cannot be reached without openness. And it’s up to us to set the example.
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